Karma Wilson, , illus. by LeUyen Pham. . Dial, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2767-0

"Sweet Briar was a skunk, and she smelled like one too. As Sweet Briar grew, so did her aroma," writes Wilson (Bear Snores On). Though named for the roses growing in her yard, Sweet Briar still suffers the slings and arrows of classmates who make fun of her strong scent. One day Wormwood Weasel coins a taunting rhyme—"Stinky Sweet Briar,/ She's no rose!/ When she walks by,/ Plug up your nose!"—and the next day the students show up with paper clips on their noses. All this leaves the skunk in a miserable, tail-dragging mood until she puts her odiferous powers to work to save Wormwood from a wolf. Empathizing children (not to mention those who identify with the heroine) won't find much comedy in the cruelty of snickering classmates, and even the nickname Sweet Briar's parents call her takes on an unfortunate connotation ("Little Squirt"). Pham's (Before I Was Your Mother) sympathetic full-color spreads and spot illustrations focus on those heartbreaking first days at school; one scene shows Sweet Briar peeking out forlornly from under a desk during a game of hide-and-seek in which no one bothers to look for her. The watercolors feature wide-eyed anthropomorphic expressions and soothing hues that wrap the tale in a velvety coziness; she dots the woodland browns and mossy greens with the bright colors of the animals' clothing. This tale of childhood teasing rings all too true-to-life, but ends conveniently when the benefits of having a skunk for a friend outweigh her use as a scapegoat. Ages 4-8. (July)